IT is very difficult to have a conversation with friends and family, to watch the news, or to listen to daily coronavirus updates without a growing sense of dread. The overwhelming feeling seems to be one of our respective governments reacting to events and making up their plans on the hoof which in turn lowers the confidence of the public in finding a way out of this car crash of a situation. Not once have I heard someone in authority saying "we have already planned for this".

Before I retired having spent a number of years working in the private sector as well as more than 10 years in the Civil Service, I would regularly participate in workshops where heads of discipline were brought together, presented with a "disaster" scenario – national power outage, catastrophic telecommunications failure and more – and asked to work through the steps needed to be taken in order for the business/department to be able to continue to trade. The output from these workshops was vetted by senior management and then fully documented. The overall objective was that in the unlikely event of one of these disasters occurring, there was a ready-made playbook that could be actioned and used as a "starter for 10" without delay. So, if our governments do not have a playbook for a national/global pandemic then one must ask the question "why not?" If they do have such a document, then why has it not been implemented? The recent conversations about not closing borders last year or allowing people to meet at Christmas being "mistakes" is shocking.

Given we are far too late to be contemplating a disaster recovery plan for this situation, can the country at least be assured that there will be a full "drains-up" exercise when this is all over in order that the many lessons that must be learned during this past year are understood and steps are taken to build plans to ensure we are much better prepared if as the medical experts are saying, this happens again?

AW Frame, Ayr.


WITH the vaccine roll-out progressing, albeit not as quickly as it should be, can anyone explain why the Scottish Government seems determined to continue to keep our spirits at a low ebb by its constant prophesies of gloom?

Especially guilty is arch doom-master Jason Leitch, who even manages to make John Swinney seem like a ray of sunshine. It's as if their mindset developed over the past year precludes them from admitting that there is a good chance that things are likely to improve fairly soon.

Undoubtedly it is wise to be cautious, but we can't live like this for very much longer and a more positive attitude from government would perhaps allow us all to catch a glimpse of the much-heralded "light at the end of the tunnel" which they now seem to be straining their eyes to see.

Dave Henderson, Glasgow G12.


ROSEANNA Cunningham recently announced that the 5p charge on single-use plastic carriers is to be doubled on April 1. She quoted figures of "consumption of 800 million bags/annum before the charge dropping by 80% by 2015" and "charging for single-use carrier bags has had a positive impact on the environment" ignoring (not for the first time) the fact that the enumerators don't count any of the bags people now have to buy from other outlets instead of reusing plastic carriers (that were never in the "top10" items found in litter anyway). In actual fact bag consumption is probably far higher than the official figures quoted.

However, even if her figures are accepted we were getting through 160m carriers in 2015, generating £8m/annum from the charge. As the charge attracts VAT, this means £1.6m for the Chancellor, leaving £6.4m for "good causes" (one of which is WRAP, who are the official bag counters; others include Zero Waste Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful and the liek).

But the Scottish Retail Consortium reports that "£2.5m" from bag charges went to good causes in 2019", so what happened to the other £3.9m?

Did so many of the smaller retailers donate without seeking publicity, or did they simply keep the extra 4p charge for themselves? There's no way of finding out.

Why didn't Ms Cunningham's latest proposal include a requirement that any trader charging for a bag has to display a notice prominently on their premises saying which good cause(s) benefited from their donations?

Otherwise a lot of traders (and some "good causes") will be delighted with the new charge. Any benefits for the environment will, however, be minimal.

John F Crawford, Lytham.


JOHN McNab's memories of the trains from Queen Street to the military corrective establishment at Colchester (Letters, January 29) reminded me of my being hit on the head with a beer bottle when on duty closing the NAAFI at my National Service posting in Cyprus.

Until then, I had sympathised with the residents of these institutions. Thereafter, sympathy evaporated, particularly for the perpetrator.

Perhaps the near concussion and four stitches in my head explain why my friends oft wonder what's wrong with me.

David Miller, Milngavie.